Property crime is an epidemic. The FBI reported a total of 2,109.9 property crimes for every 100,000 people in 2019. Property crime occurs 5.5 times more often than violent crime. 

You need to prepare for a property crime before one occurs. One important way you can prepare is by knowing the differences between burglary and robbery. 

What is burglary vs robbery? What are theft and larceny? What can you do before, during, and after a crime occurs? 

Answer these questions and you can keep yourself, your loved ones, and your valuables safe. Here is your guide. 


Robbery vs Burglary vs Theft 


Robbery, burglary, and theft are all property crimes. A property crime occurs when a person's belongings are stolen or destroyed, usually without the person suffering an injury. Other examples of property crimes include vandalism. 


Robbery Definition 

The FBI defines robbery as "the taking or attempting to take anything of value from... the control of a person... by force or threat of force." The definition is intentionally broad so a number of crimes could constitute a robbery. At its core, a robbery entails: 

  • An attempt to steal someone's belongings, regardless of success

  • Use of violence, even if the violence amounted to an implied threat. This could include armed robbery, a form of theft crime that uses a deadly weapon to perpetrate or threaten violence against a victim


Burglary Definition 

The FBI defines burglary as "the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft." Like robbery, the definition is broad so many incidents can count as burglary. A burglary involves: 

  • An intent to commit a crime, including, but not limited to, robbery

  • Entering into a structure without the owner's knowledge or consent

A burglar could fail to steal or break anything. They could walk through the front door with the intent to rob the building, but they hear alarms and runoff. They still meet both conditions of burglary. 


Theft and Larceny 

The FBI does not have two separate definitions of theft and larceny. They use one term, "larceny-theft," which they define as "the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession... of another." 

In some jurisdictions, petty theft can be a generic term for any crime that involves taking property without a person's consent. Larceny can be a separate term for the theft of personal property specifically. 



Penalties by Crime 


Penalties for the crimes differ, even inside one jurisdiction. Nearly all jurisdictions have several degrees of robbery and burglary charges. They depend on whether the offender had a dangerous weapon, assaulted someone, or stole expensive belongings. 

In general, an unarmed robbery charge involving cheap belongings results in imprisonment. A first-offender may go to jail for a few years. Subsequent offenses result in longer prison terms. 

Offenders using weapons will receive a longer prison sentence, even if they stole cheap belongings. If they assault someone, they may go to jail for more than ten years. 

Burglary is also an imprisonable offense. Burglarizing a home can send a person to jail for two or three years. If they steal belongings or assault someone, they will go to jail for several years. 


Key Differences: Theft, Force, and Fear 


There is some overlap between robbery and burglary. An individual could be charged with both for the same incident. But there are some distinctions between the two offenses. 

Robbery requires an attempt to steal. Burglary does not have to involve such an attempt. An individual could commit burglary with the intent to commit another offense, like assault. 

Robbery involves the use of force. The force can amount to a verbal threat or an implication of violence, like the thief cocking their fist. Burglary does not have to entail force, since a person can unlawfully enter a building through a door. 

Fear is not a necessary component in robbery, but it is a common element in it. Many people who are robbed fear bodily injury as their possessions are stolen. Burglary can happen without the victim even knowing about it. 



What to Do When Your Home Is Broken Into 


The best way to prevent a break-in and stolen property is to practice some basic home security measures. Get an automated home system that you can lock and unlock with your phone. You should still lock your doors and windows, and you should store valuable items out of sight. 

Develop a safety plan with your family and friends. Tell them to evacuate your home and go to a spot where you can meet up. This spot should be nearby in a public area. 

If your home is broken into when you are somewhere else, do not panic. Head to the place you told your family to evacuate to. Meet them there and wait until law enforcement arrives.

Do not go into your home if you suspect someone has broken into it. Remain outside and get on the phone with the authorities. 

If you are at home during a break-in, remain calm. Do not scream or make any sudden noises. 

Evacuate the house if you can. Try to avoid going downstairs since most thieves enter through a lower level. Leave your home through a window or fire escape and call 911. 

When you cannot evacuate, barricade yourself in your room. Place a sturdy object like a dresser or shelf in front of the door. Move into the corner of the room and crouch low to the ground. 

You can use force against someone who is threatening you. Attack their eyes, throat, and groin. Once they are down on the ground, evacuate your home and tell the authorities where they are. 


What to Do If You've Been Robbed 


Prepare against a robbery by making an inventory of everything in your home. Keep receipts of your valuables and take photographs of them. Store them in locations where they are hard to access, including safes. 

When you go out for the day, bring as few things as possible. Keep your wallet and phone in a security belt or in a necklace you wear beneath your shirt. Walk quickly through the streets and do not hesitate around strangers. 

If something was stolen out of your home, contact the authorities and report the robbery. Give them a description of your item, including any distinguishing marks on it. 

Consider contacting pawn shops in the area. The thief may be trying to sell your item for money. 

If you were robbed on the street, contact the authorities right away. Give them a description of the robber and ask for medical attention. 

A home invasion or robbery can be traumatizing. In the days after the event, take the time you need to recover.

Talk to friends and mental health professionals. If you feel unsafe in your home, stay at someone else's residence.


Frequently Asked Questions About Burglary vs Robbery


Because burglary and robbery are often used interchangeably, there are many misconceptions about them. But there are clear answers to satisfy your questions. 


What Is Worse, Robbery or Burglary? 

Burglary and robbery can be upsetting and violent. People have developed post-traumatic stress disorder from a robbery that left no physical injuries. 

In general, burglary is worse because it involves a threat of force. Robbery can occur without a person being threatened at all. But that is not to say that victims of robbery do not feel distressed after the crime. 


Is Breaking Into a Car Burglary or Robbery? 

Breaking into a car counts as burglary. A car can count as a structure, and a person commits unlawful entry by breaking into it. The offense can count as robbery if the person then steals the vehicle. 


How Do the Police Find Burglars? 

Modern technology has made it easy for police to catch burglars. Security cameras can capture them in the act. Automatic alarms send signals to the police, allowing them to arrive on the scene and find the burglars in the neighborhood. 

Some burglars are caught because neighbors witness them in the act. Others are found selling stolen belongings or casing another property. 


What Percent of Burglars Get Caught? 

It is difficult to tell how many burglars get caught. The Pew Research Center estimates that only one-third of property crimes get reported to the police. Of the ones that do get reported, only 19 percent lead to referrals of a suspect for prosecution. 

Burglars may get caught and then acquitted. Others may be arrested for another offense and sent to jail. 


Get the Security Tools Needed to Help Stay Safe


Understanding burglary vs robbery is important. Burglary involves an unlawful entry into a location to commit a crime. Robbery involves an attempt to steal something while using force. 

Keep yourself safe by following some basic precautions. Lock your doors and windows and store valuables away.

If you are at home during a break-in, evacuate or barricade yourself in a room. If you get robbed, find a safe location and contact the police. 

Get some tools to keep your home secure. ADT provides the latest home security technology at low prices. Browse our home security systems today. 


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